Himura Kenshin was a boy orphaned by the murder of his parents. Now he is the Hitokiri Battousai, the most feared and skilled killer in 19th century Japan. In the midst of a blood bath, he meets the love of his life, Tomoe. Will he continue to fight his enemies in a killing rage or will she sheath his bloodstained sword?
StoryIt is difficult to explain why Rurouni Kenshin - Reminiscence is the best piece of animation, ever. The best I can come up with is that it distilled the television series down to its best components: A Samurai epic, and a love story. But this isn’t true, what makes Reminiscence the best animation ever is what was left out: cute secondary characters, announcing your attack before actually doing it, long drawn-out explanations of how said announced attack worked, plus leaving out a European Knights arc, and a feng shui arc. I shall get into more detail presently. From the outset of the Kenshin OVA we know two things: these are violent times, and we shall see a lot of violence. But this isn’t Ninja Scroll II, and balancing out the spraying blood is a love story that isn’t merely tacked on, but weaves in and out of the swordplay like a comforting spirit. The love story brings about the cathartic release that all great tragedies have, it is also the source of the tragedy in this OVA in the first place. I hope I’m not giving too much away, but anyone who has seen the series beforehand knows that this is at least hinted at many times. The story for the Kenshin OVA provides the foundation on which two great pillars arise, the animation, and the characters; I shall begin with the animation. AnimationBeautiful is how I must start, for it describes the animation perfectly. Realistic is how I must continue because there is no mouth stretching, chibi-fying, or any of that stuff. Poetic is how I must end this particular style, for the animation is so smooth it reads like the most exquisite poetry, and I cannot keep up this style much longer. There is only one flaw I can find in the animation of the Kenshin OVA, and that is the inclusion of several live action shots: one depicting trees, and one depicting water. I felt this took me out of the experience of the animation itself, but it is quite a small nit to pick for neither of these sequences last more than five seconds. Like I’ve already outlined, the animation is beautiful, and while it’s still easily identifiable as Japanese animation, the Kenshin OVA is the most realistically animated pieces I’ve seen. The sword fights are what they should be; short and violent. Nowhere to be seen is the long, drawn out fight sequences which I felt marred the original Kenshin TV animation. Himura Kenshin superiority is readily apparent, no one save for three* individuals stand against his sword very long. I also must mention the meticulous nature of the animation, the design of everything from rice bowls to umbrellas is quite spectacular. It’s these little touches that immerse you into the OVA. SoundI have already covered most of the Voice Acting aspect of the Kenshin OVA, save for that the rest of the cast live up to the incredibly high expectations we have for Japanese seiyus. I know I’m beating you folks over the head with all this attention to detail nonsense, but I must do it once more. The craft that went into creating the sound effects for the Kenshin OVA is incredible. Everything sounds as it should be. The sounds of swords striking, the sound of wood being chopped, everything is exceptional, and the sentiment only grows with repeated viewing. The music for the OVA is like the rest of anime: at most times understated, but vibrant and powerful when the time comes. The OST is well worth a listen, for the dramatic and battle themes alone, but there are more gems in there that warrant repeated listens. CharactersDue to the length of the Kenshin OVA (around one hundred and twenty minutes) there are only really two characters of note: Kenshin and Tomoe. Both these characters have divided hearts: Kenshin does not wish to kill, but feels he needs to so that a new world can be created where all Japanese are equal. Tomoe must balance her desire for revenge with a burgeoning love. But like with the animation it’s the small details make the characters so immersive. The way that Kenshins spinning top is his last link with a lost childhood, and the knife is Tomoes last link with a lost love. The parallels are incredible. The differences between character even more so: Kenshin kills and Tomoe tries to sheath his violence. I can’t find the words to describe how well the director presents these characters. The voice acting is superb as well, and while I’ve heard complaints about Kenshins seiyu being female, I find it unfounded. I cannot imagine Kenshin’s voice as being anything other than it is. Mayo Suzukaze has a subtlety to her voice that gives the teeth of Kenshin’s character. A lesser talent would have made him sound like Clint Eastwood in his Man With No Name days, gruff, bleak, and already weary with the world. By making Kenshin’s voice softer the juxtaposition with his violent nature is made all the clearer, and the impact all the greater. Tomoe’s Seiyu, Junko Iwao, gives us an understated performance. Tomoe does not raise her voice, even at its most emotional, it is still quite reserved. Its subtlety is a perfect match for Kenshin’s, and it forces us to divine states of mind, instead of having it explained to us in some great exposition. OverallThe Kenshin OVA is an aural and auditory treat, as well as a pleasant mental exercise. This is the anime you should watch, period. If you haven’t watched this anime yet, then watch it now, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve the original TV animation, though it helps define the dichotomy in Kenshin’s character. If you have watched it, watch it again, you’ll discover something else to love about this animation after every viewing. This anime is worth every penny it costs, and then some; for it will provide you with potentially hundreds of hours of good watching. * Two of three I can mention Seijuro, Kenshin’s teacher, and Saito, one of Kenshin’s foils from the TV series, though this is the Saito from his Shinsen Gumi days. The third I can’t mention, and the bastard cheats!
All I have to say is that this is a must see for fans of the series. Even though this serves as a prequel, I would not recommend this to people who have not yet seen the TV series because the tone and style is completely different and will probably give you the wrong set of expectations for the TV series which always implements humor. While in this OAV, it’s flat out drama and full of tragedy, and none of the comedic moments of what defined the TV series is present. But does it negate the quality of this OAV? Certainly not. The pacing is a little slow, but you get to learn more about Kenshin and what goes through his mind and will get to know the other characters. Just like in the original TV series, this oav also implements events and characters from actual Japanese history. For example, Kenshin’s boss Katsura, the leader of the Choshu clan is one of them. And I heard that less than 30% of the Japanese public are not at all aware of his significance to Japanese history such as he had a role in restoring power to the Meiji emperor. And an event implemented in the story of this oav is the Ikeda-ya affair in which the Shinsengumi made their mark in Japanese history. So I thought it was an effective touch to progress the story and set the tone. So if you’ve seen the TV series and haven’t read the manga, I say check this out. You’ll see a completely different take on Rurouni Kenshin in which it still fits in the continuity of the series and view Kenshin from a different stand point not just because he’s younger, but of what he’s struggling with and see what defined his character in the TV series. As for manga readers, it faithfully adapts this flashback from it so you’ll be able to appreciate it but with a different art style which I will not get into.As fans of the franchise can tell, the character design takes a totally different direction from the TV series and manga. While the manga and anime looked more generic Shounen in its own way, the quality of the art in this version is much more theatrical and realistic. The resolution, the clothing, the faces, eyes, and everything else felt more like an Oshii Mamoru movie than something based off of Shounen Jump, and it really fit the atmosphere and mood of the OAV excellently well. In further addition, since this is Kenshin in his killing days, you get to see more blood and violence. I wouldn’t say it’s to the level of Ichi the Killer, but it is pretty violent and intense. Though I praised the action for being technique-centric, that isn’t really at all present here. You won’t see Kenshin doing his Ryuu Tsui Sen, but you just see him hack and slash, but from what little knowledge I learned from a friend of mine who does Iaido and Kendo, it looks right and the quality feels more like a Kurosawa movie and I felt it goes with the aim of being realistic. Unfortunately, the high profile bands and the techo, and acoustics and all the things that made the music kick ass in Kenshin isn’t really perfect here. If anything, music in general isn’t that centric or present. I felt the silence gave more an appropriate feel of ambiguity and unpredictability and brought a different style of drama. When watching this OAV, I do feel some music and be too much in your face at times, and I felt the lack of music in its own way was too much in its face. But I totally understand that this oav has a different kind of intention and direction, so it works in its own way. I just wish for the ending or opening themes, they could have used TM Revolution to contribute just to give Kenshin its unique identity in that sense of why I like Kenshin. But moving on, Suzukaze Mayo resumes as Kenshin, Ikeda Shuuichi resumes his role as Hiko Seijuuro, and Hirotaka Suzuoki is back as Saitou. But enough about them, time to talk about the others. I thought Iwao Junko got the voice of Tomoe down though I think anybody could have played her. She’s reserve and secretivie, and that’s all you need. And Seki Tomokazu, another personal favorite of mine plays the role of Katsura. He’s charming, charismatic, and fair. And Nakao Ryuusei who is most famous as Freeza in DBZ and the multi-talented Takagi Wataru also known as GTO play a couple of Kenshin’s buds. Though they play practically almost nobodies, their well known voices (at least to me) stood out. I have to say that this oav captured this part of the Jinchu arc excellently well. Even though this story arc was dark to begin with, I felt the art style and the different approach to be less reliant on music made it feel fresh and gives you a different kind of insight.
I watched these OVAS last several years ago. Rurouni Kenshin is one of my top favorite animes of all time. The OVAS covered Kenshin's past which is rather dark. We see the "old" Kenshin and his touching relationship with Tomoe. I got to say I cry everytime I watch any of the OVAS. The story alltogether is so great I could give it a higher mark if that was possible. The animation in the OVAS is a bit different than that of the anime but it's not inferior in any way. You can see the escence of the creator within the OVAS and the fact that you get to explore the past of the main character in such detail makes you love the story and its characters even more. I have always like the sound from this anime and OVAS. The opening and ending songs are great and very fitting to the themes that are seen in here. The characters are by far the best part of the story. The fact that is true to the history context in which its developed makes it very special in my eyes. Tomoe is really not spoken of much in the anime despite being such a huge part in Kenshin's life and what he represents in his "present" time (as we see him in the anime). Because of this reason, the OVAS take you to see a side you would have never expected and provides some credibility as why the radical change took place in Kenshin's character and his new sought way of life. Very touching scenes are to be expected!
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